I guess you could say the same idea applies to balletomanes (fans of ballet). We often feel as if we've escaped into a beautifully ethereal world when we sit in the audience of a ballet production.
It's sometimes miraculous and poignant the way things work out. The Graceful One is performing with her ballet company this weekend, something I feared I would miss while tending to my mother. Of course, I knew my place would rightly be by my mother's side, but the mother in me also yearned to be with my daughter for this special performance.
This season's final production is a repertory program, and the Graceful One will be dancing in four of the pieces. They all have different style and feel, from Broadway to contemporary to classical, but one of them is just, well...more significant. It's a dream come true for a classical ballerina.
The Graceful One will perform in "Pas de Quatre" an historic ballet first performed in 1845. For the very first time, it presented on one stage the four greatest ballerinas of that era. Though there is much speculation about the contentious behavior between the four of them offstage, there is no doubt that the production, which debuted at His Majesty's Theatre in London, was a sensation which has survived the centuries. It is an honor to be cast in any ballet with only four characters, and a great honor to be cast as Marie Taglioni, who was considered to be the matriarch of the four "queens of ballet". The Graceful One will dance the role of Taglioni.
What begins as a lovely tableau of the four ballerinas, slow but effulgent in its beauty, becomes a subtle competition to show themselves to be equal, if not superior to, one another. They bow respectfully to one another, but there is an unspoken challenge with each bow...let's see if you can top that.
The emphasis in this ballet is not on modern day 'tricks' of showy power or speed, but on precision, perfect placement, and fast footwork. Each movement must end as precisely as it begins. Each balance must be secure. While the upper body is serene and delicate, the lower body is working overtime.
With the distance between the Graceful One's city and Kansas City, and her responsibilty to attend the intense rehearsals before a major production, it was impossible for her to be with her grandmother during her last days. Instead, she left a beautiful voicemail message on my phone for her grandmother, telling her how much she loved her and missed her, and that her performances this weekend would be dedicated to her. I held the phone to my mother's ear as I played the voicemail for her. Though Mom was rarely responsive at that point, she opened her eyes wide and knew immediately who was speaking to her. After the message, she closed her eyes and smiled.
Yes, I'm thrilled to be escaping to the beautiful world of ballet for a few days. A dear friend from NYC will fly up to join us, and we'll celebrate with him as well. He lost his own mother just a few months ago, and so I know we will comfort one another as we both enjoy the escape.
Best of all, my mother, who was unable to see her dear granddaughter perform for the last few years, has escaped as well. I'm sure she'll have the best seat in the house as she watches the Graceful One perform the role of a lifetime.
Here is a bit of the second half of "Pas de Quatre" which was performed in 1968 by Lyudmila Kovaleva (Lucille Grahn), Gabriela Komleva (Carlotta Grisi), Yelena Yevteyeva (Fanny Cerrito) & Lyubov Galinskaya (Marie Taglioni). Music by Cesare Pugni, and Choreography by Anton Dolin after Jules Perrot. When you tire of watching the beautiful faces and upper bodies, watch the incredibly precise footwork. Enjoy.